Although Mingtian filtered out Xie Yi and often did not notice him approaching, he was very sensitive to anyone else. If someone came closer then he would immediately revert back to his animal form.
As usual, no one noticed or cared about Xie Yi jumping over the walls to run to Mingtian.
Xie Yi could not speak the beast language. He understood some important sentences and words but in general, the language went beyond his comprehension. And vocal cords.
Mingtian’s voice sounded nicer when he talked it - the words would roll over his tongue like a chant and reveal much more of his bestial vocal cords.
Mingtian’s voice became more of a growling and howling while Xue Hua’s voice became more of a singing.
From somewhat farther away, Xie Yi could hear them talk in their own tongue. Mingtian’s voice was soothing but Xue Hua sounded irritated and had another tone that Xie Yi couldn’t identify.
It wasn’t unusual that Mingtian missed Xie Yi approaching but the fact that Xue Hua had appeared to not notice yet wasn’t normal.
Curious, Xie Yi slowed his steps and lowered his presence. His breath slowed down.
The skill came to him naturally, like an old friend. He grinned at the familiar feeling.
Crouched, he began to sneak towards the voices and peered past a boulder.
Mingtian’s expression was a mischievous but gentle grin. With one hand on the ground he was placed over Xue Hua, his other hand tugging at the bird-beast’s clothes.
Xue Hua, with his face blushed blue, was trying to pull Mingtian’s hand off his clothes and gave a squeak when the other lowered his head to nuzzle it into the nape of the man’s neck.
Xie Yi watched for a few seconds, uncertain.
Then Xue Hua said something that Xie Yi remembered to be something similar to ‘Stop’ or ‘Hold on’ and moved his hands to push Mingtian off him - although the man didn’t comply.
Xie Yi’s lips pressed together.
With a humpf, he jumped out from behind the boulder and threw a stone right at the beast.
Mingtian reacted to the danger instantly - he caught the stone and rolled to the side, jumping into a crouch. With his teeth bared he glared towards the thrower.
His face twisted into surprise when he recognized Xie Yi.
“He said to stop!”, Xie Yi scolded loudly. “When people don’t want you to touch them, you are not allowed to force them!”
A very important lesson that everyone was constantly reminding him of ever since he had joined the sect. Like, daily.
With a dark face, he approached Xue Hua and offered the man a hand.
The bird blinked dumbly and accepted it. Once he stood straight again, his face turned even bluer and he began to stutter something before running off in a flurry, clutching his clothes.
“See, you scared him off”, Xie Yi declared, pointing towards the direction where the man had run. He was angry that Mingtian was ignoring something he always warned Xie Yi about.
The canine beast flapped his mouth open and shut, then groaned, then gave an awkward chuckle. “No, that’s not-... I mean-... Oh, sheesh. What a wasted chance.”
He sighed sadly and sat down as he threw the stone away.
“He wasn’t actually rejecting me touching him.”
“He said to stop.”
“He said that out of embarrassment.”
“I don’t see why he would be happy with you pushing him to the ground and tearing off his clothes. Don’t lie to me”, Xie Yi huffed with his arms crossed in front of his chest.
His partner rubbed his forehead and patted the space next to him. “Okay. Alright. Actually, this is probably as long as I can postpone this conversation before things get troublesome. More troublesome.”
Xie Yi frowned at him and puckered his lips into a pout but approached nonetheless and sat down.
It became a very, very long conversation.
At the end, Mingtian was staring Xie Yi down. Was he going to run right to Shi Yue? Or declare he wanted to try? Did he have to watch out for his little brother developing bad habits of that type now?
To his surprise, Xie Yi sat there quietly.
“So Xue Hua rejected you because he was embarrassed, but you weren't actually doing something he hated?”, he tried to summarize, his head buzzing a bit.
It was a good thing that he finally understood how children were born, considering that that piece of information had been a blank in his head before.
Mingtian had also explained that this act wouldn’t be done solely for the reason of reproduction but also for fun or to show feelings.
“Yes, uh, it’s common for people to be hesitant about this kind of intimacy at first, that’s why”, Mingtian confirmed. Xue Hua freaked out about every type of intimacy even after six years - including holding hands. He was just testing the other’s limit a bit with no intention to push things too far.
"You see, I'd never do anything Xue Hua doesn't like. He knows that. He would not need to struggle or push me away. If he paused and said 'No', I'd have stopped. Uh, it's kind of hard to explain." He hummed for a while, leaning from one side to the other. "Like, you know what Shi Yue is like if he scolds you, right? There are times when he says things like he's scolding you when he actually isn't, and there are times when he's serious. It's like that."
Xie Yi looked at him in confusion. Mingtian smiled awkwardly.
"Let's keep it at: We know each other well that we know when the other is joking and how far we can go. That's not the case for everyone but you can believe me when I say that I didn't force him to do anything."
The youth gave a nod with a wrinkled brow and thought about it for a while longer.
“That’s what the women at that place were for? The, uh, brothel?”
“Yes. But that’s not a necessity at all so you shouldn’t ever feel you have to do anything with them!”
Xie Yi stared blankly at Mingtian.
Honestly, the concept confused him. The reproduction part made a lot of sense, the other two reasons not so much.
Mingtian had said that because in his last life the elders had made it so that he wouldn’t be interested, there was a chance that in this life, too, his interest would be very shallow.
Xie Yi huffed a strand of hair away.
It did sound interesting. It did sound like something he would want to try, there was just one very large problem he had with it.
Xue Hua had, even at this point, been so distracted he hadn’t noticed Xie Yi approaching.
That meant for all the time that you were busy doing that - and Mingtian had said that for cultivators, it could be quite long - he would be without weapons and armor, completely distracted, and kind of at the mercy of another person? Vulnerable to whatever they were doing?
“It sounds like a bad idea to let someone that close”, Xie Yi mumbled uncertainly.
Mingtian’s face lit up.
Perfect moment to teach his little brother a good thing! Better to have it deeply etched into his mind!
He might not have the right to twist Xie Yi’s habits to his liking but surely no one would say it was bad to teach a young man about fidelity?
“That’s why you should only ever do it with someone you love and trust a lot. It’s perfectly fine to only have one person like that in your whole life”, he purred, emphasizing his point. “It’s best to not play around.”
“I still think it’s weird”, Xie Yi complained.
Mingtian pulled him over into a hug and rubbed his head against the youth’s. “That’s because you still need time to trust someone that you don’t think of as family.”
“Does that make a difference?”
“Let’s say, if you were interested in doing those things with me, I would be very troubled.”
Xie Yi quieted down in confusion, his lips a flat line.
“But I trust Shi Yue”, he said with a strong voice.
“Do you?”, Mingtian asked slowly. “Do you do the things he says because you believe he has a good reason? One that keeps your well-being in mind? Or do you follow it because you want him to be happy?”
He patted Xie Yi’s head in a monotone and constant tempo.
“I’m not saying you don’t like him. You definitely do, that’s why it makes you uncomfortable when you think about him being unhappy with you. Besides, you are still not sure about what things are good, so you tend to listen to others more - and that’s alright.”
He paused. “But you see, it is fine to refuse others. It is fine to doubt them - even good. Fully trusting someone doesn’t mean that you never ask for their reasons, it only means that you believe that no matter how much you investigate, you will find that they never wanted to hurt you.”
Xie Yi turned to hide himself against Mingtian’s chest. The man was really tall and muscular, so Xie Yi, who was not yet an adult, felt he could lean on him in various ways.
With Mingtian’s explanation, the difference was very obvious.
He was still scared about asking Shi Yue for his reasons. The cultivator had hated him so much in his past life, it was hard to truly believe that this time, they were close. It felt like a nice dream that would shatter at the slightest impact.
“And what should I do to make this better?”, he groaned. He absolutely, absolutely wanted to trust Shi Yue. He wanted to feel safe about being happy around him.
“Question him”, Mingtian stated as he began to shift his body back into a somewhat large bestial form. Large enough to curl around Xie Yi and offer him some warmth in the thick fur. “I know that he’s waiting for you to do it. He won’t get mad, either. Question him again and again - the more times you do and realize that your trust wasn’t broken, the stronger it will grow.”
The beast was nervous about giving that advice, knowing fully well that trust was more or less the only step missing for Xie Yi to fully fall in love with Shi Yue.
Xie Yi already adored every part of his master - it did not matter whether others might think of them as faulty, Xie Yi liked them all. He enjoyed Shi Yue’s company more than anyone else’s, completely forgetting the world around him.
Yes, it was a platonic sort of attraction, but Mingtian could tell it was still of romantic nature.
Xie Yi might not be able to understand the giddiness, the nervosity, the racing heartbeat and the dazed fascination and he didn’t need to yet.
It would be nice if Xie Yi could have his crush, whether it would mature into settled feelings or slowly vanish with time. (Alright. That was unlikely.)
Besides, Shi Yue knew. If they became a couple, even better!